Kapiti Marine Reserve Protection

Helping terns and penguins

By Cushla McGaughey

The Kapiti Marine Reserve is a 22-square-kilometre area that connects with both the Kapiti Island Nature Reserve and the Waikanae Estuary Reserve.  A continuum of protected land, sea and estuary such as this is very rare.

It greatly benefits species like terns and penguins that rely on the sea for food, but must roost and breed on land.

White-fronted terns nest in small colonies on rocky islets close to the coast of Kāpiti Island. They come to feed around the Waikanae river mouth or rest on the sandbanks along the beach.

Unlike scavenging gulls, they feed solely on live fish, caught on the wing. Flying into the wind, they hover a few metres above the sea and then dart down, with scarcely a splash, to snatch small surface-shoaling fish. They can fish in the surge of breaking waves as well.

Penguin numbers going up

Little Blue Penguins usually forage within 5 metres of the surface on small fish, squid and octopus, although they can dive to more than 60 metres.

They have always nested on Kapiti Island, where they are safer than on the mainland.

Commercial and recreational fishing has been banned in the Kāpiti Marine Reserve since its establishment in 1992. This has made more food available for wildlife, an important factor in breeding success.

As a result, the number of penguins nesting on Kapiti has increased.